About a decade ago, I was in Philadelphia looking at all of the historical sites and visiting Independence Hall to see where my personal hero - President John Adams - sat as the delegate from Massachusettes and helped lead the way to the American Revolution. It was such a wonderful trip for me. Little did I know that I would stumble across a culinary delight that triggered something in me.
As I was walking around the downtown Philadelphia area, I stumbled into Jim’s Steaks, one of many Philadelphia Cheese Steak places in Philadelphia. I walked in, placed my order and was asked how I wanted my steak. Being a newbie at this, I said, “Oh, medium rare, please.” After the laughter from the staff and other patrons had subsided, I was guided to get it with onions or with peppers and did I want cheese or Cheez Whiz. I simply requested the most popular. This included chopped rib eye steak with grilled onions topped with Cheez Whiz and put into a soft hoagie roll. I got one, then another and finally a third before I realized that I had triggered an addiction.
Unfortunately, being in Phoenix meant that I probably wouldn’t find a way to score a hit of a Philadelphia Cheese Steak from some neighborhood pusher. Or could I?
I was sent on a quest by my work to get some various items from Circuit City. The closest one for me was the one at 16th Street and Camelback in Central Phoenix, so I headed there with my corporate card in hand ready to make the GNP spike with my purchases. But before I could do any quality shopping, I needed to find a place for lunch. As I pulled into the shopping center on the northeast corner of 16th and Camelback, I noticed the multi-colored triangular flags usually put out to signal a grand opening. Sure enough, there it was: Corleone’s Killer Steaks. It was just a few doors down from Circuit City.
My hands started dripping with sweat and my bottom lip quivered. I developed a small twitch under my left eye and all I could think of was getting my hands on a Philadelphia Cheese Steak. So, I braved heat and headed into the little storefront.
Upon my entry, I noticed how open and airy the place felt. It was decorated with lots of memorabila about The Mob and a giant lithograph of Marlon Brando as The Godfather pretty much told me I had to eat here... or else. I grabbed a menu and looked at the choices. There were plenty, most with nods to Organized Crime in America including the “Sleeping with the Fishes” Tuna Sandwich or the “Under Boss” Chicken Sandwich. It was all very charming in its gangster-type way.
But I was here for THE sandwich. The classic. The one and only Philly Cheese Steak. And there it was atop the menu. It came with grilled onions and Cheez Whiz and the twitch under my eye was at full throttle. But, to round out my meal, I thought I would just throw in some fries and a Diet Coke, which all came as a combo. So, I ordered and the pleasant cashier rang up my order. Then, the twitch died down. My combo meal for a cheesesteak, fries and small drink was $10.78, including tax.
I knew The Mob was in it for money, but that seemed a bit excessive. So, I grabbed my cup, got a cup of Diet Coke and found a nice place to sit while I waited for my addiction to arrive.
It wasn’t a long wait and the server brought me my steak and fries. I quickly ran to the condiment station for some ketchup and napkins and grabbed the steak and took a bite. It was pretty good. In fact, I rather liked it. However, it didn’t have that Philadelphia feeling with it, so it really missed being “just like the ones I had in Philadelphia.” I give kudos to the cooks and creators of the sandwich because it was decent in taste.
However, while it had the taste, it was lacking in substance, particuarly for an $11.00 lunch. It could have used a good dose of more onions and more Cheez Whiz and part of the charm of cheesesteaks is their greasiness which was lacking in this version. Still, the roll was soft and fresh and the Cheez Whiz was as orange as it could be, so overall, I was okay with the sandwich.
What didn’t please me, however, were the fries. It was quite evident that the fires were straight from the freezer bag. They were nothing special and, again, for an $11.00 lunch, it wouldn’t have killed the place to double fry the potatoes to at least give them some added crispiness. These were just boring and I longed for a bottle of Lawry’s Seasoned Salt to improved the flavor.
I finished my meal and a second cup of soda and put my trash in the bin. As I walked out, the staff said goodbye and encouraged me to return. I am not sure if I will.
Yes, I liked the sandwich. Yes, I liked the atmosphere. Yes, the service was good. But I just didn’t feel like I got a good deal on my lunch combo. Maybe I will try it again, but I won’t guarantee it.
Oh, and if I suddenly disappear and am found floating in the bottom of Tempe Town Lake, you know the Corleones found my website.
Corleone’s Killer Steaks
1640 East Camelback Road
Phoenix, AZ 85016
Dress: Armani suits and sunglasses for men. Tacky dresses and big hair for women. Or casual.
Notes: Outdoor seating available. Other locations in Scottsdale and Tempe.
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